Concert Review: Jahfe at the Clevelander, July 19

photo by Ben Thacker
Click here to view a full slideshow of photos from the event.

The Clevelander, Miami Beach
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Better Than:
Actually being in Cleveland

The Review:

Miami's hottest roots reggae/Haitian culture band Jahfe officially released (again) its long-awaited album, The Solution, Sunday night with an early evening poolside performance at the Clevelander. Sunday is "Island Love" day at the newly renovated party hotel, and the weekly party is a regular gig for Jahfe, who delivered three sets of beautifully arranged and performed reggae music in support of the new record. 

Though the party got off to a slow start (6 p.m. is a bit early for the South Beach crowd), the band trucked through its first set of mostly covers for an enthusiastic near-stage crowd of two. Tourists and other bored-looking guests filled the tables and chairs around the pool and bar, occasionally glancing toward the stage as they sipped pina coladas and beers and ate cheeseburgers. Apparently these were not reggae people -- how else could they resist the urge to at least close their eyes and sway to the intoxicating melodies of classic tunes like the Abyssinians' "Satta Massagana" or Barrington Levy's "Black Roses?" 

I for one was duly impressed, as I always am, with Jahfe's impeccable sound and orchestration. Everything from the vocal harmonies to the guitar effects to the "riddim" section is spot-on with these guys, filling up your ears with authentic roots and dub styles that take you straight back to the dancehall.  

I was glad to see that upon return from my indoor-bar, between-set beer break, the crowd had grown in numbers and in energy. Maybe it's easier for people to let loose under cover of darkness, or maybe the drinks had started to kick in. Either way it was starting to feel more like a real reggae show, and less like a contrived Ocean Drive tourist gimmick.

For their second and third sets, Jahfe mixed in original songs off the new album, including the title track "The Solution," "Rebel On (Soul Rebel)," and the Creole-language "Latibonite." These heartfelt compositions, soulfully performed by a band whose sound is bigger than its lineup, prove that Jahfe is much more than a talented cover band. They are their own life force. Look forward to big things from this group.  
Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I got a thing for reggae music.

Random Detail: The Clevelander's two terraced rooftops offer quite the South Beach view.

By the Way:
Jazid also has a Sunday reggae party starting at 10 p.m., if you're in the mood for more good vibes. Look for appearances by Jahfe here as well. 

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Ben Thacker